Posted by: Hannah | 02/03/2015

vaccinating against fear

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I took two years of high school biology and I read a lot. But, since so many of the informed sources credible experts nutbars on the internet are no more qualified than I am – hell, I am aware of the existence of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel‘, that’s practically a PhD in immunology, right? – I feel like I’m just as valid a source for vaccination information as anyone else. 

Certainly moreso than Jenny McCarthy or that asshole doctor in Arizona who is anti-vax because his chiropractor wife “opened his eyes”, oy.

Anyway, that’s why not everything is properly cited. 

So! Here’s a sampling of strange things I’ve heard or seen recently about vaccines. Refuted by me! AGAIN, I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. But I am capable of critical thinking so there you go.

Measles are just a rash.

measles_rash

A small child with a typical four-day measles rash. Source: Wikipedia.

 

If you would characterize the above picture as “just a rash”, well. Wow. OK. Measles also brings with it days of fever, sore & light-sensitive eyes, and cough/cold symptoms. Assuming you have no additional complications, you can expect this to last for an average of 7 – 10 days.

However, additional complications can and do happen, including permanent damage to the eyes, encephalitis, pneumonia… 96,000 people worldwide died from measles in 2013, down from 545,000 in 1990. This is NOT because of Whole Foods. It’s because the measles vaccine has become more widely-available worldwide.

Advances in medical science means measles, pertussis, and the like are no longer fatal.

So… you tout medical science as the cure-all for the (still potentially lethal) effects of catching these diseases, but the same medical science is flawed with regards to the vaccines that prevent them in the first place?

Gotcha.

There is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

No, there isn’t. That link is attributable to ONE study conducted by ONE doctor… and it has since been conclusively discredited and the doctor stricken from the UK Medical Register and barred from practicing medicine. No link. NONE.

Also, I know an awful lot of wonderful, smart, loving, delightful people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). None of them would rather be dead than have autism. And by saying that risking the death of not only your own child, but who knows how many others, is preferable to ASD… imagine how that feels?

Non-vaxxers are just making ‘loving choices’ for their children.

I’m sure they probably think they are… but they say “loving” and I hear “selfish”. There is a percentage of the population (roughly 10%, in case you’re wondering) who actually cannot be vaccinated. This includes very young children, people with compromised immune systems, people for whom the vaccine is ineffective (more on that later) and people who have severe-enough reactions to vaccines that there are legitimate medical concerns. What these parents are saying is that their own fear is more important to them than the health and well-being of society as a whole.

If your kids are vaccinated, why do you care if mine aren’t? Yours are protected!

There’s that selfish thinking again. I care, because of all the people who can’t get vaccinated for actual real reasons, not Magical Fairy Unicorn reasons (see above). I care, because I have an interest in protecting the whole population, not just the bits of it that I gave birth to.

Also, it is a common misconception that vaccines are 100% effective for ever and ever, amen. THEY ARE NOT AND YOU NEED TO PUT THIS NOTION OUT OF YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW. If you are exposed to a disease that you have been vaccinated against, you may still catch it – but you will get a far-less severe version of it, and your risk of severe complications is greatly reduced. This is true even for something like the flu shot; you might still catch the flu, but you will not get as sick and you will recover faster if you have had the shot.

Vaccines lose their efficacy over time. Some people don’t respond as well to the vaccine as others and so their immunity is not as strong. This is why we need “herd immunity”. The whole intent behind herd immunity is to make conditions so inhospitable for a virus that it actually can’t survive at all anymore, thus (hopefully) eradicating it altogether. Think smallpox.

Why are we putting chemicals in our children?

Oh, heavens. Want to know an actual dictionary definition of “chemical”? A compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially. Boy, that is potentially a whole lot of things, hey?

It is impossible to avoid chemicals. They are literally everywhere. They surround us. You know that smartphone you’re using to read this very post? It’s made of chemicals. I know that all anti-vaxxers use similar devices all the time, because they do their “research” on the internet. So, if you are trying to eschew all chemicals, you’d best put the iThing down and go decontaminate.

“Chemicals” does not mean “bad”.

I read an article that vaccines have [insert bad scary thing here].

I just heard this one today, and it frustrated me so. The (very nice) person who read it sent me the article link, so I checked it out. It was posted on a site called vactruth.com. It looked very professional, at a glance. Five quick minutes with Google and I found many, many sites calling out Vactruth on some of their more ridiculous claims, including separate posts asserting that “vaccines cause homosexuality” and “vaccines cause young boys to wear dresses”.

Here’s the thing. The internet contains the entire repository of human knowledge. It also carries any damn fool thing that any unqualified crackpot decides to pull out of their ass. LOOK AT THIS POST YOU ARE READING RIGHT NOW. Again, I am not a doctor or any kind of a scientist, and yet here I am asserting things. No matter what you read online – whether it’s about vaccines, or celebrities, or the best way to get grass stains out of pants – you MUST consider the source. Not all sources are created equal. Please stop pretending that they are.

I only want to get the “most serious” vaccines for my kids.

I freely admit, I was (very briefly) in this category. Harry’s birth year was the first year that the chicken pox vaccine was available as part of the regular vaccination schedule in Nova Scotia. My first reaction on hearing that there was a vaccine against chicken pox was, I’m sad to say, pretty skeptical. I just figured chicken pox was one of those things that everybody gets. I had it, as did all three of my siblings. It sucked, granted, but we all had it relatively young so it didn’t seem like that big a deal. I did some research. I talked to my doctor, and to the public health nurse. I learned that you can only get shingles – a very painful and horrible disease – if you’ve first had chicken pox. I made the decision to get the vaccine for Harry, as well as for Ron and George. By the time George came along, the vaccine for rotavirus was available, and I got that, too. If boys could get the HPV vaccine, I would choose that one as well.

Research is expensive. The costs associated with developing a vaccine and producing it for a mass market are astronomical. No lab will get funding to develop a vaccine for a “not so serious” disease. If there is a vaccine available, I’ll take it, thanks.

Doctors & the government conspire with Big Pharma to sell us vaccines we don’t need.

I’m going to cite this one, because it’s important. The following is from The Economist, published in October 2010. Quote: “for decades vaccines were a neglected corner of the drugs business, with old technology, little investment and abysmal profit margins. Many firms sold their vaccine divisions to concentrate on more profitable drugs.”

You know what changed? Insurance companies started to realize that it was more cost-effective to pay for vaccines than it was to pay for treating people who got sick from preventable diseases.

Vaccines are not a conspiracy. Ever wonder why there are shortages of the flu vaccine every year? It’s because vaccine production is not as profitable as selling Viagra or Cialis or Paxil. Governments have to put in special requests to get sufficient vaccines produced because “Big Pharma” loses money on them.

*******

I’d like to close with a personal anecdote, because why not.

I didn’t get the flu shot for years. I had myself convinced it wasn’t such a big deal. Remember the H1N1 epidemic in 2009? I do. I remember it well because Ron, at eighteen months, caught it eight days after he received the vaccine (it takes ten days for the vaccine to offer full protection.) Never before or since has one of my children been so sick. In the two weeks he was sick, he had two chest x-rays… was taken to a walk-in flu clinic and put on Tamiflu by a very worried doctor… and finally rushed to the ER at 2AM when it became clear that he could barely breathe.

10391740_342387945421_5442426_n

Look at the hollows under his eyes. This was after he’d recovered slightly, but he pretty much spent two weeks sitting there under a blanket with worried Harry close by.

His illness removed any lingering doubts I had about the flu shot – and by extension vaccines. By my inaction (I didn’t get their shots that year until H1N1 was a full-blown public health emergency) I had caused my child pain, and suffering.

If I refused to vaccinate my kids, what kind of person would I be? I could hurt my own children, or someone else’s. Sorry. I’m not OK with that, and neither should you be.

And that’s why I am an enthusiastic proponent of vaccines, and why yes, I will debate you and tell you I strongly disagree with your stance if you come at me with non-scientific reasons for refusing them.

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Responses

  1. We are with you, not only do we all get flu shots every year, I am due for my tetanus booster ( I tied it to our wedding – so I remember what year it is) when our boy returns from school in the spring he is getting a Mumps booster shot – he was born in that problematic time. Both our son and my husband got the regular flu in 1999 at christmas and I never want to go through that again.

  2. This is perfection.

    I have nothing else to say.

    YOU ROCK! (Okay I had one more teeny thing to say.)

  3. Amen!

  4. This is comprehensive, succinct and well-articulated. I get so tired of saying it over and over, but the anti-vaxxers aren’t quieting down so we really need to keep asserting our position too. Also, I hadn’t even thought of that ‘advances in medical science’ thing – very good point.

  5. Preach, sister.

  6. Amen.


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